Retired cosmonaut Dr. Fyodor Yurchikhin held an in-person "Ask a Cosmonaut" session with around 130 senior high school students and teachers in Quezon City Science High School on Wednesday, Feb. 1.
Yurchikhin was a Russian cosmonaut of Greek descent who had been on five spaceflights, including long-duration stays in the International Space Station and nine spacewalks, said the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) in a statement.
He was also recognized as a Hero of the Russian Federation for his accomplishments and was among the five cosmonauts chosen to raise the Russian flag at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony, it added.
During the discussion, Yurchikhin said that being a cosmonaut is a fascinating profession and also invited the students to pursue a career in the field.
"I cannot exactly tell you how it feels. You should taste it...It is your feelings. I can only tell you mine. But every day when I was in space, I check in with myself and I felt happy every time I had the chance to fly in space," he answered when a student asked how it feels like to be in space.
"The most beautiful thing I’ve seen in all of space, in all of that darkness, is our planet," Yurchikhin said.
Yurchikhin and his team also paid a courtesy visit to the PhilSA Headquarters in Eastwood, Quezon City, and answered space-related questions from the agency's staff and children.
"It is not a common opportunity for people who have gone to space to visit our country. The interaction between Dr. Yurchikhin and the kids and students is truly inspirational. We see this visit as promoting this inspirational aspect of space," said PhilSA Director General Joel Joseph Marciano, Jr.
"And it is important for our country that our young people continue to be motivated to pursue their aspirations of contributing to the country. That includes one of them possibly becoming a future astronaut or cosmonaut from the Philippines. So hopefully, this interaction today leaves a lasting impression in the minds of young people to continue to push the boundaries of our humankind," he continued.
PhilSA said that it builds partnerships and collaborations with various international space communities to "promote public awareness and information, advance space education, and strengthen international relations to grow and sustain a robust global space ecosystem."
The agency also produced a video series called "Ask an Astronaut" in 2021 and 2022 to ignite the youth's interest in space science and technology applications.